Plaid Cymru in North Wales

ukip_plaid_tories   ukip_plaid_tories-1 (2)   ukip_plaid_tories-2Saturday 2nd May 2015 / Leanne Wood and Hywel Williams campaign in Arfon, North Wales.

The heavens open as Plaid Cymru candidate for Arfon, Hywel Williams and party leader Leanne Wood join their weatherproof campaign team to visit some key towns and villages in the North Wales constituency.

The party battle-bus leaves from Caernafon Castle,  site of The Prince of Wales’s investiture, and is tailed periodically by a van full of Labour Party supporters who are dressed as badgers and squirrels in protest at Plaid Cymru’s policy on fox hunting.
The candidate and members of the Plaid team tell me a lot of interesting stories about the areas history, topography and culture.

Canvassing is conducted entirely in the Welsh language. Hywel Williams tells me it would very unusual to greet the electorate speaking English on the doorstep.

At the foot of Mt Snowdon I make a few quick drawings of Mr Williams as he canvasses support from local climbing gear suppliers on the issue of business rates.

The Welsh dragon flag is borne up whilst umbrellas are folded briefly for a photo opportunity with the party leader in Bethesda.
Hywel Williams explains that ‘Pesta’ as the locals call the place, has pubs on one side of the street only as the A5 marks the border between Lord Penrhyn’s land and freehold land.

Slate looms large in the landscape. Mr Williams visits the official re-opening ceremony for a narrow gauge railway station where trains would have served local slate quarries. Arfon contains a slate museum, an old slate mans hospital and as well as slate quarries, several mountainous slate spoil heaps.  3 North Wales constituencies including Arfon meet at the summit of Mount Snowdon.

It’s still raining as the day ends up with a campaign walkabout through Bethesda and I end up with a very soggy sketchbook.

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26th April 2015

Almeida Theatre , Islington, London / Labour Party International Development Event.

The London Borough of Islington will for me always remain synonymous with the birth of New Labour in the 1990’s.

The Almeida Theatre, todays venue for a Labour Party ‘International Development’ event’, has been at the centre of Islington cultural life since the early 80’s. The theatre with its dramatic red and yellow painted stucco balconies and pillars makes for a lively backdrop as I sketch the metropolitan audience of party supporters.

Prior to the appearance of the party leader, TV star Ross Kemp introduces a roster of special guests. Labour’s Secretary of State for International Development , Mary Creagh is followed by Baroness Amos and actresses Emily Berrington and Adjoa Andoh. With quite a lot of squinting I try to make some drawings of the speakers from a dark aisle in the stalls.

After Ed Milliband’s speech a small crowd wait in the foyer. I notice the former labour leader Neil Kinnock at the theatre bar and make a drawing of the scene. Ross Kemp is ordering a drink at the far end so I add him to the design as a quick crayon squiggle.

I try to make a picture of a fleeting moment when a young woman places her palm on the labour leaders chest as her and a friend speak with him. Like a lot of these rapid sketches it ends up looking not a lot like Ed Milliband but does capture the sentimental moment.

 

Labour party International Development Event

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Boris Johnson at Lynch   Boris Johnson at Lynch-2   Boris Johnson at Lynch-3

24th April 2015

Boris Johnson, London Conservative Pledgecard launch at Lynch Plant Hire and walkabout in Stanmore.

When managing director Liam Lynch asked his staff to guess which special guest would be visiting the Lynch Plant Hire Warehouse in Stanmore, Boris Johnson was second on their list, The Queen was top.

The employees, who sat within the orange embrace of several huge mechanical digger arms, were shy at first in coming forward with questions. But as soon Mr Johnson had finished his old style, rousing, call and response style oratory they thronged around The Mayor of London to have him sign their ‘pledge cards’ and pose for mandatory campaign ‘selfies’.

Boris Johnson was visiting Stanmore to lend support to the local Consevative candidate Bob Blackman. Surrounded by placard wielding supporters, the pair greeted surprised shoppers in the Sainsbury’s before processing up the High street, a knot of bluster and activity. Trendy teenagers engaged the Mayor in some youthful banter whilst an elderly lady quizzed the local candidate as to when the new zebra crossing would appear.

I made some lightening speed sketches of Boris as he zipped in and out of several hairdressers, posed beneath heart shaped balloons in a party paraphernalia shop, had his photo taken in a local butchers and bought a bag of chips for the entourage. ‘Actually I can’t let you have these chips’ he joked ‘that would be a breach of electoral rules’.

The Mayor was keen to see my sketchbook, ‘Wow, You’ve got me there, and it was all happening so quickly ’ he remarked before jumping on the underground back to City Hall at the same whirlwind pace.

Conservative Pledge Card Launch

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DUP manifesto launch Antrim DUP manifesto launch Antrim-1 DUP manifesto launch Antrim-2 DUP manifesto launch Antrim-3

Tuesday 21st April 2015

Democratic Unionist Party Manifesto Launch. Antrim  N Ireland.

Having discovered that the DUP are unveiling their manifesto at the factory where the new London Buses are built, as opposed to the factory in Galgorm where they’re fitted out, I double back towards Antrim.

A red, double decker bus, destination Victoria, stands incongruous next to a field in Northern Ireland as the backdrop to today’s election campaign event.

The DUP are the 4th largest party in the House of Commons and during this election campaign refer to themselves as possible ‘kingmakers’.

Their manifesto launch feels like a special occasion in the N, Irish election campaign calendar and guests have dressed up in their best clothes for the event.

Work at Wrightbus continues in the background, though speeches by party leader, Peter Robinson, deputy Nigel Dodds and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster are timed to start once the factory’s elevenses whistle has blown.

There are three black leather armchairs beside the lectern. As I draw the scene it starts to look like the set of a late night chat show. But with a big red bus in the background.

After the event I make some drawings of DUP party members, including Ian Paisley junior, as they pose on the rear platform of the bus to Victoria.

DUP Manifesto Launch

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Saturday 18th April 2015

Inverurie, SNP walkabout.

Aberdeenshire gets quite warm further inland. Prosperous Inverurie feels pleasantly Provençal, its’ neat, impressive town hall glistening in bright sunshine as locals gather in the market square to await the arrival of the SNP party leader, Nicola Sturgeon.

The SNP candidate for the constituency of Gordon is ex-first minister Alex Salmond. In the memorial garden he crouches down to chat with unsuspecting picnickers and their children. The scene is presided over by a statue of a soldier from the Gordon regiment.

The traditional ‘flesh pressing’ and ‘baby kissing’ of previous election campaigns has been distinctly absent across the 2015 campaigns and from my sketchbooks but upon the arrival of Nicola Sturgeon I’m able to sketch a proper unmediated walkabout.

‘Shall we have a wee selfie ?’ Ms Sturgeon asks children with SNP stickers stuck to their foreheads.

Before taking a tea break in The Mitchell’s Dairy, Salmond and Sturgeon have a chat, table by table with all their fellow diners. I make a very quick sketch of a young boy as he gives Ms Sturgeon a drawing he’s done for her. It is covered in hearts.

But for the ‘selfies’ and ‘high fives’ this event appears to represent very ‘old school’ canvassing.

SNP Walkabout

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UKIP manifesto launch-1   UKIP manifesto launch-5   UKIP manifesto launch-2

Wednesday 15th April 2015

UKIP Manifesto launch, The Thurrock Hotel, Essex.

Having already learned from my previous excursions sketching at United Kingdom Independence Party’s events to expect press hysteria, unusual characters and interesting surroundings are to be expected I take a brand new, completely empty sketchbook with me to Thurrock via Purfleet.

As I enter the Essex hotel that UKIP have chosen as the venue to launch their manifesto I feel as if I’m about to witness a darts tournament rather than a political event. The hotel’s long narrow conference room is lined with gilt framed mirrors and ornamental sconces. I make some sketches of UKIP candidates and party members, one of whom wears a flashing electronic badge on each lapel. Red LED’s scroll the message ‘welcome to the UKIP manifesto launch’.

Unlike other party leaders Nigel Farage attracts a strangely manic kind of attention from the media. Photographers, journalists, camera crews, all want to get as close to him as possible. The constant mantra of ‘Nigel, Nigel, Nigel” is often in the air.  I enjoy trying to make very rapid sketches of the party member’s ovation at Nigel’s entrance, the faux bluster and managed reaction to a journalist’s innocently provocative question and the post event pairing up of various candidates with mobile news media units.

The bit of Essex countryside that surrounds The Thurrock Hotel seems to feature a lot of distant pylons and traffic noise. I try and include something of this extra urban location into a couple of sketches I make of UKIP’s jag driving heritage spokesman William Cash as he is interviewed by Newsnight standing next to his car ‘The purple Godiva’.

UKIP Manifesto Launch

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Tuesday 14th April 2015.

Conservative Party Manifesto Launch at Swindon UTC.

When I arrive at the courtyard of University Technical College, Swindon, there is excitement in the photographers ‘pen’. The press photographers chat together amiably whilst adopting a crescent formation around the entrance to Swindon’s former Great Western Railway village. Inside, TV crews, journalists and the party faithful await the arrival of the Conservative cabinet and their leader. A passive soft rock soundtrack plays in the background.

The heavy, uneven stone construction of the grade 2 listed buildings, which since 2014 have been the home of UTC, present a picturesque urban topography. There are some very nice architectural features to draw such as a huge iron framed reservoir and an unusual three storey slatted wooden tower. Perhaps the party should have launched their manifesto out here in the open, sunlit industrial atrium. Ancient Greek style.

 Inside the banner strewn hall I’m able to make a few quick sketches of Conservative Party cabinet members Nicky Morgan, Theresa May and George Osborne before David Cameron takes to the lectern. I try to draw Theresa Villiers in her cerise dress and jacket combo but I’m not quick enough . The same thing happened when I spotted her arriving at City airport last Tuesday.

 I recognise the aqualine, pale wooden lectern from previous party events, previous elections even. I imagine that this piece of furniture has it’s own special bespoke baize lined baggage compartment on the Conservative Party bus. It probably bears marks of battle from the continuous gripping, thumping and prodding of politics. Perhaps one day it will go on display in the V&A as an artefact of political campaigning.

 

Conservative Party Manifesto Launch

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